House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Beirut: Explosion

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

Last time this parliament met I raised, in mourning, the fact that Beirut had suffered a terrible blast. It's now 65 days since that blast. Like so many things that happen throughout the world, news is superseded by other news, be it the US election or the Royal Family. But the reality is that the people of Lebanon are still suffering. There have been hundreds of people killed, including baby Isaac Oehlers, an Australian, who was fatally struck by glass while sitting in his high chair. There have been 300,000 people displaced, including an estimated 100,000 children. Just to put that in perspective, that's equivalent to the number of people displaced by natural disasters such as the Typhoon Vongfong in the Philippines in May this year. As CARE Lebanon has said, 'We already thought we were going through the worst, yet it's a real nightmare. Beirut, already on the brink of the abyss, apparently found it on 4 August 2020. With the crisis, we are already struggling to cope with the scale of humanitarian needs.'

There has been a great outpouring of generosity around the world and from many Australians, including Steps of Hope, an Australian based charity connecting the Lebanese diaspora of Australia by donating $100,000 worth of windows and doors to assist with the reconstruction. The Red Cross distributed 72,000 food and hygiene kits. There's been assistance with emergency treatment, blood transfusions and the like. But as I go about the Australian Lebanese community, which I'm a proud member of, I continue to receive feedback about how appalling the Australian government's response has been. $5 million is all we have managed to find as a country; meanwhile, only weeks ago, Fox Sports was given another $10 million in an opaque grants process that we will continue to prosecute.

Unfortunately the Lebanese Prime Minister and his government have resigned in the wake of the blast. In late September the Lebanese Prime Minister designate quit. There is a continual political impasse. The reality is that thousands and thousands of Australians have displayed their own generosity. There are too many to mention in the short time here in my extended family and beyond. But, above and beyond that, we need to urge the Australian government to support the Lebanese people in finding a solution to the long-running problem of the regional external interference in Lebanon's sovereignty and recovery. Above all else, we need help. The Lebanese people need help now.